Law Society chief executive Catherine Dixon speaks about the implications of the EU referendum for Competition and Regulatory Lawyers. 

I am writing to you as a UK-based Law Society Competition Section member about the possible implications of the referendum outcome for practitioners involved in advising on EU competition and regulatory law and to invite you to contact us with any questions. We have written separately to members based in other EU/EEA Member States and Switzerland.

Photo of Catherine Dixon

The referendum outcome has no immediate bearing on establishment and practising rights, including the rights of audience and legal professional privilege of England and Wales lawyers in front of the Court of Justice and the General Court of the European Union.

Definitive advice on the implications of the UK’s eventual withdrawal from the EU for those rights will not be possible until it becomes clear what form the UK’s new relationship with the EU is going to take. The European Council has indicated that the UK will need to serve notice of its withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 before those negotiations can begin. Notice is unlikely to be served before the end of the year or early next year as indicated by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May.

By their nature, international negotiations take time and much depends upon political relationships. How those relationships and the internal politics of the other 27 member states evolve over the coming months is impossible to predict. We will be watching progress closely and will keep you informed.

Preserving lawyers’ rights in the EU

We will seek to preserve the maximum level of internal market access for lawyers and law firms, and to maintain the rights to practise and establish in other member states currently enjoyed under the combination of Article 49 of the TFEU, the 1977 Lawyers’ Services Directive, the 1998 Lawyers’ Establishment Directive and the 2013 Professional Qualifications Directive.

We are aware of reports of England and Wales qualified lawyers seeking requalification in other Member States (specifically Ireland) to maintain their rights of audience and legal professional privilege before the EU courts. We have been in touch directly with the Law Society of Ireland, which has confirmed that reciprocal qualification rights will continue and that it has the administrative capacity to deal with an increase in the number of applications. We are also in contact with the two (French- and Dutch-speaking) Brussels bars and any other bar associations as per our members’ needs.

We are also consulting the Competition Section committee to assess what support is needed in this market.

We will also be addressing policy issues with relevant stakeholders, including, for example, highlighting the importance of maintaining a framework dealing with matters such as choice of law and mutual recognition of judgments.

I appreciate that in setting out our understanding of the position we might be raising more questions than answers, but these are unprecedented and complex circumstances.

If you do have any questions or points to raise please contact us at our dedicated email address: Euref@lawsociety.org.uk

Yours sincerely

Catherine Dixon